The Other Side of Advertising: Impact On Children And Portrayal Of Women

Posted on April 3, 2012 in Media

By Paresh Pahuja:

The definition of advertising may differ from person to person. To some, it is an instrument to boost sales and profits. To others, it is a way of spreading awareness about products and services. To some more others, it is a medium to influence culture and attitudes of the audience.

Media in India today is not limited to morning newspapers, AIR and Doordarshan; it is much more than that. It comprises of stunning and mind boggling communication devices. The way of doing advertising has completely changed in the past few years. Advertisers now have a plethora of mediums to reach their intended audiences. But sometimes it looks like they’ve been misusing these mediums.

In India, we have many laws to prevent and control the negative impacts of advertising. But these laws are seldom taken seriously by the advertisers. Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) is also there to enhance public confidence in advertising but hasn’t made much difference.

Advertising to Children
A while ago, the Coca-Cola Company signed an agreement to firmly not begin, indulge, engage or participate in any activity that intentionally targets kids under a certain age. They said they have a Global Responsible Marketing Policy that covers all their beverages and they do not market any products directly to children under 12. But when you look at the recent TVC “Umeedo Wali Dhoop, Sunshine Wali Asha”, you’ll realize that coke has perhaps forgotten their so called “Global Responsible Marketing Policy”. Vodafone’s recent campaign shows some 11-12 year teens getting attracted to each other and the pup is helping them out. Such ads do affect the innocent minds of children and they start believing that they’re also supposed to behave in the same manner. Of course kids are an important part of a family and they do influence the buying decisions. And in fact they themselves are future customers for the advertisers. But the marketers should not cross their limits and not practice such advertising which may be harmful to these naive minds. All the children have a right to grow up in a sound environment.

Portrayal of Women in Advertising
The portrayal of women today in ads certainly impacts the way young girls perceive themselves. Advertisements show women competing for attention, often using their fairness, slimness and sexuality which might relate or not relate to the product or ideas they sell. They are represented as objects to be looked at. Not to forget all the overtly sexual deodorant ads. Be it a soft drink ad or a pressure cooker ad or a fairness cream ad or even a detergent powder ad, the women portrayed in these ads are always shown ‘perfect’ that is fair and slim. Looking at all this, Girls with dark complexion or with wheatish skin color tone feel inferior about their personality. Why this obsession with fairness? Well, these are the ill effects of advertising. Fairness creams and beauty products sell nothing but hopes. No fairness cream in the world can change your skin color and make you fair.

In spite of putting a ban, Tobacco and liquor manufacturers are openly advertising their products with the help of surrogate advertising. For example, Royal Stag Music CDs, Kingfisher Mineral Water, Haywards 5000 Soda, 502 Pataka Chai, Wills Lifestyle and many more. Not to forget the misleading claims of some advertisements (Asian Sky Shop Types) which promise you to make you slimmer in a week, fairer in a month and grow hair on your scalp in a quarter. No deodorant or perfume in this world can give you fragrance for 24 hours. But they claim so and you fall for it.

India seriously needs better laws and better regulatory bodies to govern the advertising industry. And even people need to understand what’s right for them and what’s not. If they find anything wrong, they should take the initiative to file complaints and suits against these advertisers.